Slight CDBG Bump Eyed

WHEELING – Despite expectations of another cut in federal Community Development Block Grant funding this year, Wheeling actually will receive about $34,000 more from the program than it did in 2012.

The city will receive $1,155,997 through the program for the fiscal year beginning July 1, according to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s up from the $1,122,076 Wheeling got for the year about to conclude.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it’s better than an 8-percent cut,” said Nancy Prager, director of the city’s Economic and Community Development Department, referring to what HUD had told city officials to expect earlier this year.

Wheeling’s annual CDBG entitlement has declined almost $500,000 over the previous two fiscal years, but the bump in funding for 2013-14 doesn’t necessarily signal a reversal of that trend. According to HUD, some CDBG funds set aside last year for disaster relief weren’t spent and will be distributed as part of the normal program for the coming year.

The additional money resulted in a nationwide increase in CDBG funding of about 4.4 percent, from $2.94 billion to $3.07 billion. However, Wheeling only saw a 3 percent increase in its entitlement.

Prager said the city plans to spend $22,000 of the additional money on street paving and sidewalk repair, $7,000 on administrative costs such as legal advertising and office expenses and $5,000 on building demolition. Those proposed adjustments are subject to final approval by City Council.

No increases are proposed for the various public service agencies set to receive funding for the upcoming year, including the Wheeling Human Rights Commission. That agency saw its budget slashed by nearly 80 percent despite pleas from board members and the public. It will receive $14,000, rather than the $66,000 it received last year.

The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 24.

The city is only spending 12 percent of the overall CDBG budget for public services, even though HUD allows it to allocate up to 15 percent for those purposes.

Although Prager is glad the city got a reprieve this year from the recent trend of cuts, she remains concerned about the future of another federally funded program the city administers – the Northern Panhandle HOME Consortium, which provides assistance to income-eligible first-time homebuyers with down payments and closing costs.

The consortium will receive a total of $296,900 for the coming year, down from $342,306 last year and $528,429 two years ago. That money is divided among Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall counties, as well as the cities of Wheeling and Weirton – jurisdictions that wouldn’t individually be eligible to receive funding. Wheeling’s share of that money is $51,482, Prager said.

Individual applicants can receive up to $10,000 through the HOME program, which is written off as a grant as long as the recipient stays in their home at least five years.

But because the consortium’s eligibility amount – which is determined through a set formula – has fallen below $335,000, it may no longer be eligible to receive direct funding in future years. If that happens, Northern Panhandle municipalities would have to compete with other cities to receive money from a statewide pool of HOME funds provided for non-entitlement cities.